The Democratic Convention

 We went to Denver for the Democratic Convention, which proved to be the best, and the worst, of times.

Denver Democratic Convention, 2008 046 The highlight was, not surprisingly, Thursday night at Mile High Stadium/Invesco Field.  The atmosphere was electric, and we got there early enough to see the 80,000 seat capacity stadium fill up with attentive and enthusiastic supporters.  Barack Obama’s speech lasted some 45 minutes, but in person it felt like just ten minutes.  My children were seated on either side of me, and they asked lots of questions, and seemed captivated as well. 

What was so impressive about Obama’s speech was that he managed to lay out the case against John McCain (something some were concerned he wouldn’t do) without being personal.  And he did a great job of describing some specifics of what his administration would focus on and achieve.  But most of all, he did an amazing job of addressing a crowd of 80,000 and another 38 million watching on television in a way that seemed personal and connected.  He is, without question, a once-in-a-generation speaker, and is now doing a great job of articulating how his values and vision will translate into governance.

Denver Democratic Convention, 2008 042 Our time in Invesco was pure magic, and we will all be forever glad that we were there in person to witness history.  It was such a great experience, and I have no regrets about going there.  And I’m thrilled that my children could witness history first hand, and hope this will be an experience they can tell their children and grandchildren about.  But as for the rest of our time there . . .

Denver Democratic Convention, 2008 015 We had some personal commitments and couldn’t head to Denver until Wednesday.  We spent most of the day Wednesday there and the full day Thursday.  After arriving on Wednesday we were excited to go to the Pepsi Center (home of Denver’s professional basketball team) for an evening featuring Bill Clinton and Joe Biden.  We took a cab there, or so we thought, but traffic was at a standstill.  So we got out early and walked the rest of the way.  After about a 30 minute walk (much of which was navigating through security and to the arena), we got to the security checkpoint (very tight security everywhere) and eventually entered the arena, not at all prepared for the scene inside. 

Denver Democratic Convention, 2008 005 The Convention Center was jammed to capacity and then some.  Our passes said “Honored Guests” but that didn’t move the needle.  After an hour or so trying to get into the viewing area, we faced reality , gave up, and headed back to the hotel.  Easier said than done.  We walked quite a distance to get to the shuttle buses, only to learn that they wouldn’t start running for another hour!?!?  So we retraced our steps (about a half mile each way) to get back to where we started, only to walk back to the hotel (about a 45 minute walk), arriving just in time to see the last five minutes of Biden’s speech on television.  Ouch!!  This wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for by flying to Denver.

We re-grouped, determined not to make the same mistake twice.  Thursday would be better, if for no other reason than it couldn’t be much worse.

Denver Democratic Convention, 2008 035 I went to a National Finance Committee meeting Thursday morning and got a chance to hear Michelle Obama (always so impressive) and Joe Biden.  It was the first time I’d heard him, and he’s an impassioned public speaker.  I was mildly positive about the initial choice of Biden (my preferred VP was Chuck Hagel), but he’s grown on me, and seems to be stepping into the role confidently and effectively.

Iowa 074 We then had a chance to view a preview of a documentary being filmed on Barack Obama’s implausible run for President.  Two women had heard about Obama in 2004 and decided to follow him in the event he decided to run for President.  They’ve been tracking him since the very beginning, and have over 500 hours of footage already.  We got a chance to see the segment on Iowa.  I was there for the caucus, and these film-makers got it exactly right.  I can’t wait to see the film when it’s released (due sometime in 2009).

Denver Democratic Convention, 2008 016On a gorgeous Thursday, we headed to Mile High Stadium (home of the Denver Broncos football team).  Early.  Very early.  We passed through some very tight security and found our way to unreserved seats at about 2:00 p.m., a mere SIX hours before Barack Obama would begin speaking!!  After missing everything on Wednesday, we left nothing to chance, even though it meant we were some of the first people in the stadium.

Denver Democratic Convention, 2008 011 On the way in, we saw a very remote area designated for protesters.  The fence was quite high, and it was actually hard to figure out what their concern or cause was.  In general, we came to Denver expecting to see lots of discord.  But there was almost no evidence of unrest, and we were struck by the widespread level of harmony and fellowship.

Denver Democratic Convention, 2008 029The schedule began at 3:00 p.m., and contained a bit of everything — entertainment, comedy, some moving speeches, some great musical performances, and some pretty dull speeches.   Highlights were Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder, Al Gore’s speech where he noted that he knew a bit about close elections, andDenver Democratic Convention, 2008 032 six “everyday Americans” who shared their experiences in a very  moving and passionate way.  The one I’ll always remember is a gentleman named Barney Smith from Indiana, who had lost his job and was having a rough time with health insurance.  He concluded his remarks by saying, “I want a President who cares more about Barney Smith than Smith Barney.”

Denver Democratic Convention, 2008 038 Our seats ended up being about ten rows in front of where Hillary Clinton was sitting.  I wasn’t in Denver to see her speech on Tuesday night, but was impressed with how graceful and supportive she was during the convention.  Having come so close, it’s inevitable that she would have very mixed feelings about the outcome, but she seemed radiant as she took in the proceedings, and gracious when her presence was recognized. 

After Barack’s great speech, we returned to the torture zone.  Getting back from Invesco was challenging beyond belief, and we patched together a miserable combination of waiting, walking, taking the light rail (crammed beyone belief) and a shuttle bus (even more crammed).  It took an hour and a half to get back.

We left on Friday morning, but not before another highlight.  I went down early to buy a newspaper and a cup of coffee and ended up in line behind Tom Brokaw.  We talked a bit about the convention and the chaos in security and logistics.  He’s such a wonderful person, and I’ve often thought how great it would be to have him in office.

Friday’s other noteworthy event was learning of McCain’s choice for Vice President.  If his goal was to shift media attention from Obama’s great speech to the Republicans, he accomplished that.  If his goal was to manage a thorough and careful process to pick an outstanding running mate, he botched it beyond belief.  I work with tiny little start-ups and if a CEO ever told me, “I’ve just hired a VP that I’ve heard really good things about and met once for fifteen minutes,” I’d fire the CEO on the spot.  But somehow John McCain can completely fail to do his homework for his most important pre-election decision, and then blow his stack when reporters question his judgment. 

One Response to “The Democratic Convention”

  1. Shawn Levesque Says:

    Well written, Ted and thanks always for sharing your family’s adventures! The more I learn about Obama, the more I am inspired by his empathy for others, his dedication to his community, and his passion for our nation’s potential. Obama’s actions speak louder for hope, and that’s what counts to me.
    Hope you are enjoying Seattle!

    Best,
    Shawn

    PS: Still can not find that darn backpack! Suggestions?

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